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On the Extent of the Atonement.
The controversy concerning the extent or universality of the atonement, was formerly agitated, and is now agitated, which imposes upon us à necessity of handling this subject, that nothing may be wanting to a clear elucidation of this allimportant article of the Christian system.
Among the ancients, the Pelagians and Semipelagians contended, that Christ died for all men; hence Prosper, in his letter to Augustine, concerning the remains of the Pelagian heresy, says, “Those who embrace the Pelagian heresy, profess to believe, that Christ died for all men universally, and that pone are excluded from the atonement, and redemption, which the blood of Christ has effected.” And among those errors which they attribute to Augustine, they find this:-“The Saviour was not crucified for the redemption of the whole world.” Faustus* says, “they wander far from the path of piety, who assert, that Christ did not die for all.” Hincmar, in his letter to pope Nicholas,t recounts, among other tenets of Gotteschalcus, which he calls erroneous, that he maintained and preached, that Christ did not shed his blood precious to God the Father, for the redemption and salvation of all men, but for those only who will be saved, or for the elect. To the same purpose are the anathemas of the pretended Council of Arelate,-anathemas which are recorded in a letter to Lucidus, written by Faustus,
Book i. De libero arbitrio.
† Book iii. chap. 14.
the first leader of the Pelagian bands; in which he also as. serts, that Sirmandus acknowledged himself to be a semipelagian. Augustine, in his age, opposed himself to these heretical innovations; so did Prosper, and Fulgentius, his disciple, and other preachers of the grace of Christ, who, travelling in their footsteps, boldly defended the truth. The truth for which these divines contended, was afterwards asseried by Remigius, bishop of Leyden.*
The same controversy was afterwards renewed among the Roman Catholics; some of whom taught, like the semipelagians, the doctrine of universal atonement; while others, embracing the views of Augustine and his genuine disciples, restricted the atonement to the elect. This controversy was principally between the Jesuits and Jansenists. The Jesuits, a genuine branch of the semi-pelagian sectaries, warmly con. tend for a universal atonement. The Jansenists, with great firmness, contended, that the atonement was restricted to the elect. In this they followed Jansenius, the founder of their order. Jansenius has examined this subject very large. ly, and with great solidity of argument.
The controversy passed from the Catholics to the Pro. testants. The Lutherans follow the Jesuits, and contend for a universal satisfaction. The Arminians, however, called remonstrants, from the remonstrance which they presented to the synod of Dort, are among the protestant churches, the great champions for a universal atonement. They have indirectly dragged into their creed, the most of the Catholic errors, from Molinus, Lessius, Suarezius, and other Jesuits, From such polluted fountains, they have among others, drunk in the error concerning universal atonement, which, they contend, was made by the death of Christ; and which is placed second among those errors that were rejected and condemned by the synod of Dort, as may be seen in the
* Liber, tribus epistolis et concilio Valentino III. anno 855. habito,
In suo Augustino, et in apolegia Jansenii, et in catechismo de gratiæ.
Eckard. Fasicul. controv. c. 15. De Predesti. q. 6. Broehmannus de fratia Dei. c. 2.9, 17, 18, 19. et alii.
second chapter of their rejection of errors, concerning the death of Christ.
The doctrine on this subject for which the Arminians contended at the synod of Dort, which was condemned at that synod, and against which they remonstrated, is expressed in this manner:-“ The price of redemption which Christ offered to his father, was not only in itself sufficient for the redemption of the whole human family, but even by the decree, will and grace of God the Father was paid for all men and every man, so that no one is by an antecedent decree of God, particularly excluded from a participation of its fruits. 1. Christ, by the merits of his death, has so far reconciled God to the whole human family, that the Father on account of his merits, without any impeachment of his truth or justice, can enter and wishes to enter into and confirm a new covenant of grace with sinful men exposed to damnation.” Hence they maintain, that, according to the counsel of God, Christ so died for all men that his death, not only on account of its own intrinsic value, is sufficient for the redemption of all men, but that agreeably to the will of God it was offered for that express purpose--that the death of Christ was a death in the room of all men, and for their good, by the intervention of which, and on account of which, God, ever after, willed to deal graciously with all men--and hence, that the death of Christ was not a blessing promised in the covenant of grace, but the very foundation of it. 2. That from his own intention and that of his Father, he has obtained for all men, as well those who perish, as for those who are saved, a restoration into a state of grace and salvation, so that no one on account of original sin, is either exposed to condemnation, or will be condemned; but all are freed from the guilt of that sin. 3. That Christ, according to the counsel of his father, delivered himself up to the death for all men,
any individual in particular should be saved; so that the necessity and utility of the atonement made by the death of Christ, might be in every respect preserved, although the redemption obtained should not be actually applied to one indivi
dual of the human family, for whom the redemption was obtained. 4. That Christ by his atonement merited faith and salvation for none, with such certainty, that the atonement must be applied to them for salvation; but merely acquired for God the Father a perfect willingness, and full power to treat with man upon a new footing-a power of entering into a covenant of grace, or a covenant of works with man, and of prescribing whatever conditions he chose; the performance of which conditions depends entirely on the free will of man; so that it became possible that either all, or none should fulfil them. 5. That the procurement of salvation is more extensive than its application; as salvation was obtained for all, but will be applied to very few. All these are clearly proved to be Arminian tenets, from the Collation published at Hague, and from the expose of their sentiments, in their remonstrance against the second article which contained a list of errors condemned by the Synod of Dort.
Though these views relative to the extent of the atonement, are not fully embraced by any of the clergy of our church, yet there are some of our ministers, who defend the doctrine of universal grace, and, in explaining their views of this subject, give great countenance to not a few of these Arminian tenets, nay, in a great measure adopt them as their own. That they may evince a philanthropy, a love of God towards the whole human family, they maintain that Christ was sent into the world by the Father as a uni. versal remedy, to procure salvation for all men under the condition of faith. They say that though the fruit and efficacy of Christ's death will be enjoyed and experienced by a few only, on whom God, by a special decree, has determined to bestow them, yet Christ died with an intention to save all provided they would believe.* In this manner, they teach that the decree of the death of Christ preceded the
The opinion here unfolded is, with very little variation, that of the Hopkinsians, which at present is making great progress in the northern churches.- Translator.
decree of election,-that in sending Christ into the world, no special respect was had to the elect any more than to the reprobate, and that Christ was equally appointed to be the Saviour of all men. They even distinctly assert that salvation was not intended to be procured for any particular persons, but the possibility of salvation was procured for all. This they tell us was effected by the removal of obstacles which justice placed in the way of man's salvation, which was done by rendering satisfaction to justice, and thus open. ing a door of salvation, that God, reconciled by the atonement, might, in consistency with the claims of justice, think of entering into a new covenant with man, and of bestowing upon him salvation. But as God foresaw that on account of the wickedness of their hearts, none would believe in Christ, he, by another special decree, determined to bestow upon some faith, thus enabling them to accept of salvation, and become partakers of it; while the rest of the human family would remain in unbelief, and on its account would be condemned. In this they differ from the Arminians, and em. brace in so far the truth of the atonement. Such views as these which we have, stated are clearly contained in their writings. Camerus* says, “ the death of Christ, under the condition of faith belongs equally to all men.” Testurdus speaks thus, t " The end of giving Christ for a propitiation in his blood was, that a new covenant might be entered into with the whole human family, and that without any im. peachment of justice, their salvation might be rendered possible, and an offer of it made to them, in the gospel. In this sense, indeed, no one who believes the word of God, can deny that Christ died for all men.” Hear also what Amyraut says, “The redemption purchased by Christ may be considered in two respects. 1. Absolutely in relation to those who actually embrace it. 2. Conditionally, as offered on such terms, that if any one will accept it, he shall become a partaker of it. In the former respect it is limited,
* In Cap. 2 Epist. ad Heb. ver. 9. | Diss. de Gratia Universali.
+ In Ireni. The. 78. et 79.